The Herald Bulletin

January 18, 2014

Theresa Timmons: Spelling C-H-E-A-T-E-R on a snowy day

The Herald Bulletin

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"It's really coming down," I said to my husband Seth on Sunday, Jan. 5. The snow had piled up through the night, and another snow cloud had settled over Elwood for the day.

"Yup." Seth was totally relaxed in his reclining end of the couch, confident he might be able to extend his weekend and keep his spot in front of the television warm for at least three days.

I continued to stare out the window. "Plus it's gonna start blowing around. Boy, if this much snow drifts..."

"Yup," he said. None of this was news really. Every local TV station had a winter storm warning icon on the screen and our faithful forecasters and news crews updated us every hour as to the location of all clouds and exactly how much snow was measurable on back decks, interstates, and tire tread paths on county roads.

I continued. "And COLD, too. Wow! Maybe 20 below zero."

Seth sighed and acknowledged me. I was dangerously close to talking too much, which meant he would be forced to pause the television. Pausing the television was a big deal ... he would have to swing upright in his chair, search for the remote, find his glasses so he could locate the pause button — and the worst part — interrupt whatever saved programming he was currently watching.

I have no problem upsetting the eco-system in Seth's television world or disturbing his meditative existence in couch-potato land by introducing real live conversation and reality-based interaction. With me.

"Wanna play Scrabble?" I asked.

One of this world's most shocking wonders is a little-known fact. Seth Timmons —who can sit in front of a television for an entire season of Downton Abbey and move so little that he could produce specimens of green mold — Seth Timmons, who inspired an English teacher to retire early, who has illegible handwriting, nonexistent punctuating ability, and hasn't won a spelling bee since second grade...yes, that guy likes to play Scrabble.

There was no hesitation. "OK," he said.

I am the official Scrabble game set-up crew. I pulled it out of the closet and wiped off the dust. I decided to create a game table right beside Seth's chair. That way he could still watch TV between turns, and I would be more likely to get more than one game out of him.

Because I love Scrabble. Naturally.

Within a few minutes, the game was on.

Seth and I have very different approaches to Scrabble play. Seth has a terminal case of attention deficit and can only ponder a play for a short time. If he can't produce a word in a couple of minutes, he will add an 's' somewhere, or spell 'it.'

As for me, I will transcend this world and mentally float in a sea of letters that flip themselves in to various sequential possibilities. I will even jot down the variable scores of each possible word, to organize the potential word candidates by their scoring strength. A tough move could take me 15 minutes. During which time Seth, who has the attention span of a fly, forgets what game we are playing.

Seth's main strategy is pretty simple. He waits till I am distracted and then he quickly spells a word with brazen confidence and tells me his score, hoping I won't look too closely. Seth makes up words.

"Pejor is not a word," I say.

"You are telling me you've never heard of a pejor? Are you kidding me?"

"Klingon words or Star Trek planets don't count in Scrabble. I WILL challenge this." I don't let him get by with especially stupid words.

When our Sunday game was over and I revealed the score, Seth had something to say.

"You mean you even won when I cheated?" He couldn't believe it.

"What do you mean you cheated?" I asked, in total belief that he had.

He confessed without remorse. "I picked out my choice of letters from the bag when you went to the kitchen."

I paused to think about his Scrabble cheating ways. But only for a few seconds.

"Wanna play another game?"

Theresa Timmons’ column appears every first and third Sunday. She is an Elwood resident and can be reached at